Thursday, August 2, 2012
Raising the White Flag
I love writing about Ben, and about our experiences with him. I love the funny things he says and does, like when he told me that he had two nightmares that were the same, except "the graphics were different" in the second version. I love that he always asks, "How much did that cost?" when someone shows him something new. I love his fascination for the mechanics of things, and his unabashed conversations, such as the one he had with my sister a year or so ago when shortly after I had a hysterectomy, he spontaneously asked her, "So Auntie Jen, have you also had your uterus removed?"
And yet, no matter how much I love him, there are times (today is one) when I want to hoist a white flag over my head, drag myself up and over the hilly battlefield upon which the ceaseless scuffles of Autism are fought every day, and collapse at the feet of whoever might actually have the power to accept my unconditional surrender and plea for mercy.
There are times (today is one) where I just don't think I can do this anymore. Lately I've been envying parents who never wake up in the morning wondering how many times their child will melt into uncontrollable fits of screaming, kicking, punching, and spitting. They never have to decide when might be the appropriate time to sit down with the cub scout troop and explain that their fellow Wolf isn't just a weird, impatient, socially awkward person but that he has a disability. There are parents who don't think twice about loading the kids into the car for an outing to a park, store, or restaurant.
There are times (today is one) where I wonder if I am really just not doing this parenting thing right at all. Those same parents who don't think twice about taking their kids to church or swimming lessons are also generally respected as the final authority in the home. Sure, other kids backtalk and argue; of course other kids fight with each other and even with their parents. But most of those kids don't leave bruises and bite marks. I've tried every trick in the book: consequences, punishments, rewards, sticker charts, money in the jar, and outright begging for better behavior. Nothing works...nothing. When Ben gets upset, nothing matters. He just explodes. And I can either put him in his room and hope he doesn't punch too many holes in walls or kick out the window, or I can try to physically hold onto him and brace myself for the fury.
Those meltdowns are unbearable, largely because they are completely void of all reason and logic. I can't talk Ben off the ledge, so to speak, while he's in the first phases of the meltdown. All I can do is wait until finally, in spite of the ongoing punches and kicks, the bites and screams and spit, I see the look in Ben's eyes change from fury to terror. There always comes a point where he realizes that he is out of control but just can't stop. And when that moment comes (and sometimes it takes hours to get there), I can finally scoop him into my arms and start rocking him and whispering while the punches get softer and softer and finally subside altogether and the Ben I adore comes back to me.
But he's nine years old now. And this has been the worst summer of meltdowns he's ever had. He's bigger and stronger than ever, and there are times (today is one) when I wonder what the future holds for this child. Will he ever gain more appropriate coping skills? Will he ever have the ability to move away to college or to a job? Will he be able to continue living in the house if he doesn't learn to somehow mitigate those outbursts so that they aren't scary and harmful to people around him?
I'm driving myself crazy with the questions, and with the lack of answers.
And today, bruised and exhausted, I surrender.